The Cloud Revolution
The digital data that we produce has become increasingly powerful in recent years. The toolset to harness this data—algorithms, machine learning, and AI—has largely been accessible to only the most advanced technology companies in the world.
Welcome to the cloud revolution. Save for the few un-contacted tribes, we are “up” there in that dense digital fog – along with the remnants of our MySpace profiles and those unsavory Reddit comments that sunk Ken Bone. . . . Versions of ourselves, at least.
There’s the You that’s in the Google Cloud—it contains your shopping habits and sexual identity. Then there’s your online identity: the one you create for yourself on Facebook and Instagram—political, emotional, loves obscure music and the occasional vacation selfie. Your love life might be determined by an algorithm. Your shopping habits manipulated, the next video you watch recommended by a cloud-based robot computer.
The digital data that we produce (and even more that we generate inadvertently) has become increasingly powerful in recent years. The toolset to harness this data—algorithms, machine learning and AI—has largely been accessible only to the most advanced technology companies in the world.
Paperspace, a Newlab member, is working to make machine learning resources available to everyone. Paperspace provides simple access to powerful hardware, and works to lower the barrier to transformative new emerging technology stacks.
“Our goal is to open up potential futures, to put tools in the hands of anyone interested in building their own destiny,” says Lindy Marcel, who leads product at Paperspace.
Paperspace is used in industries ranging from genomics to e-commerce to the production of new and generative media. (It was used to create the satiric app “NotHotdog” on the HBO show Silicon Valley.) Its platform is used by a variety of Paperspace’s fellow Newlab members, including Studio Bitonti, which is disrupting traditional mass production through new distribution technologies including 3D printing, and Carmera, which provides real-time 3D mapping for autonomous vehicles.
“When people are trying to get something built, they shouldn’t be spending their time managing infrastructure,” says Marcel. “That’s our main job.”
Server farms, with their infinitely daisy-chained processors and computations have reached such sizes and speeds they’re almost abstract. In this explosion, new industries are born and old industries are reimagined.
Anthony DiMare, the founder of Nautilus Labs, grew up in a “salty” Italian family in Boston—with deep ties to the sea. “I’ve always been interestingly connected to the water; I started a sailboat company in college,” he says. By graduation, that company had closed, and DiMare then went into naval architecture, where he discovered an interesting problem. “I didn’t understand why we weren’t running CFD on everything we were looking at.”
Nautilus Labs has created a fully integrated cloud platform to collect data from existing navigational and machinery systems on a ship, get it securely back to shore, and then provide a web platform so shipping companies can easily optimize their ships, fleet, and business. “You have to look at the whole shipping ecosystem, starting with the ship,” rather than view the vessel as a closed system, DiMare says. “Shipping companies fail to see the broader efficiencies in the entire ecosystem. All of that’s just data.”
He likens the change to taxis. Until ride-sharing apps came along, taxis operated as independent cogs in the city machine. A dispatcher might have a general sense of a car’s location but would have to radio to confirm each one. Seemingly overnight, centralized computing systems and management algorithms optimized the way people move around urban and rural roads. “No one’s thinking like Uber,” DiMare, of Nautilus Labs, says. “Routing’s remarkably rudimentary.” The data’s there, he says, it’s just spread across numerous systems. There’s an environmental angle to the work as well.
“If we do our job right, we could potentially shift global emissions by whole percentages,” he says.
With great power comes great responsibility. A shovel can be used to maim someone or build a sturdy foundation. And while the cloud may know your awful music taste circa 2008, it is also positioned to do extraordinary things—including democratize data and combat global warming.
Photography by Rich Gilligan. This article was originally published in Tech Fancy Issue 5: The In-Cloud.